Saturday, December 5, 2009

To Touch the Fire

Written while listening to: “Scattered Rain” by Tsuneo Imahori.

. . . . . I still remember the sense of awe and wonder I felt when I first saw Farseer Nobundo wield the elements as easily as our Vindicators wield the Light. Like most of my people, my head was still clouded by fear and prejudice; I believed the Broken were somehow tainted and unworthy. I was such a fool.

. . . . . My path had been a simple one until that day. Born to the life of an eternal refugee during the early centuries of our exodus, I trained as a scout and tracker, my reckless disregard for myself allowing an unusual amount of skill in finding which places on each new planet we landed on would be safe to inhabit and which places were potentially fatal to us. I spent the millennia learning to be self-sufficient, to rely only on myself – a very bizarre habit among the communal draenei. I think, then, my reasoning was that I spent so much time while we were off-ship alone, that when we were on-ship, it just continued to be my habit. Maybe I just never wanted to own up to the fact that I didn’t quite fit in. All in all, it was a simple path, and I did not entirely stay alone; I had friends and lovers among the other scouts. Never anyone too close, anyone I could not leave behind when the restlessness struck.
. . . . . When we landed for what we had hoped was the final time – didn’t we always hope it was the final time? – I went a-wander across the new planet. My hooves didn’t touch the same soil twice for many years. I saw the rolling hills of Nagrand, the graceful plains before the Temple of Karabor, the lush greenery of the Peninsula in the Devouring Sea. I found glory in discovering untouched lands, places even the orcs hadn’t seen yet. Perhaps the way of the eternal refugee lives under my skin and will forever more. I never have quite seemed to settle down.

. . . . . It was only luck and happenstance that I even learned about our exodus to Zangarmarsh. I had heard about the sacking of Farahlon, of course, and it was why I retreated to the high mountains of Nagrand alone. I found peace in solitude and even under threat of attack from the orcs, I felt safer alone in the mountains than in a city. But when one of my climbing spikes broke, I had to leave my hermitage behind and descend the mountains to Shattrath City to get a new one.
. . . . . There in the city I learned that our most sacred temples – Karabor and Auchindoun – had fallen already to the orcs, and they were headed toward our last bastion of safety. It took me less than a day to volunteer to join the scouting party to lead the city’s refugees to the small anchorite settlement of Telredor.
. . . . . Telredor was much too small for so many of us. Some went on to form Orebor Harborage, some settled at the Twin Spires, but we all stuck to the safety of the marshes. As scouts, we were often sent to gather food for the refugees. Even now, I hate mushrooms and will not eat them unless I have no other option. And I will consider eating my own hooves as an option before eating mushrooms again. We managed to eke out several years of relative safety, although the pass in from Terokkar and from the Peninsula had to be heavily guarded.
. . . . . The Prophet Velen? We did not know where he was. After Karabor fell, he had come to Shattrath to share his wisdom and point us towards the marshes. But somewhere along the way, he departed into the marshland and we knew not where he had gone or if he even still lived. The anchorites at Telredor told us to remain fast to the Light, that it would hold us safe. I admit that I no longer had such faith. How was a life of constant retreat, of death to a deathless race, of loss and sorrow and fear…how was this what the Light wanted for us? I attended prayer services and mouthed the words, but I held more faith in my ability to provide for myself than the Light’s providence.

. . . . . I returned from a food-gathering expedition, laden with two baskets of edible fungi, to find a crowd gathered in the central terrace at the top of Telredor. The Prophet had returned, and he was bringing with him someone who would help him guide our people to a new peace, a new communion with the world. Despite my lack of faith in the Light on the whole, I did still have faith in the Prophet’s wisdom, so I joined the milling throng with excitement in my heart.
. . . . . That excitement burned to ashes when I saw the stooped, warped, Broken man leaning on a walking stick at the Prophet’s side. The buzzing murmurs around me reflected my own disappointment. A Broken. A tainted one. What if his presence here began to mutate the rest of us? What if the fel energies clinging to him spread to us? There was a reason, after all, that they were not allowed among the unaffected! The crowd grew restless, stepped back almost as one. Someone shouted a question about the wisdom of this to the Prophet Velen. I was already searching a path out through the crowd with my baskets when the sky cracked open above our heads with a deafening sound.
. . . . . I froze in place as all the hairs on my body stood at attention and a blue glow infused the air for less than a second before lightning streaked down and whipped around the agitated crowd, just above our heads, just far enough away to keep us from true harm. I looked to the platform above us, awe suffusing my soul. The Prophet Velen had his hands folded in the sleeves of his robe and an inscrutable expression on his face. The Broken he introduced to us had his face turned up to the sky as the rain began to fall. “Everything that is, is alive,” he said, his voice quiet but audible to us even over the rain.

. . . . . This was self-sufficiency! This was power! This was providence at its most basic level! Like several in the crowd, I ended up approaching the Broken – Farseer Nobundo – to seek to join his growing number of students. I learned later that I was in the larger, second of the groups he mentored along this new path for the draenei, having followed behind a smaller group of students who had sought him out without the Prophet’s guidance.
. . . . . I was an arrogant and envious fool, then. I believed that I chose this path for myself, that I would master it, that I was somehow less desperate than the first group because they had all been Broken – or nearly so. I was impatient, impertinent, and entirely too stupid. It surprises me even still to think that it took so long for sense to be knocked into my empty head.

. . . . . Ten of us were gathered around Farseer Nobundo, sitting on the wet marshlands near a lake in Zangarmarsh. We were practicing listening to the spirits of Water, and – as was typical for me – I was struggling. I could not hear them, no matter how I raged and pleaded with my soul. I demanded, I begged, I railed and requested by turns. I had conquered the natural world through my own determination and skill, and now to find that all the mountains I climbed were living, the water I drank freely given to me, and that all I conquered was merely a gift, not a victory…
. . . . . I rose from the wet ground and stomped away from the lesson, my hooves guiding me out of earshot and to a clearing at the edge of the lake. I was so angry, so upset, that even the one spirit I could hear – the sibilant whisper of Air – did not seem to get through to me. I ignored it…to my own peril. Frustration guiding me, I turned my face to the sky and shouted my rage to the heavens. I did not see the group turn to look at me. I did not see Farseer Nobundo take a step towards me. All I saw was the fluorescent blue glow light the air a split second before the bolt of silver fire from the heavens answered my rage with its own.
. . . . . Though I know now from simply looking in a mirror that the strike was a small one and made contact with only a few inches of the left side of my face, it felt at the time as if my entire being was enveloped in agonizing flame. My last conscious memory is of every muscle and tendon locking into a rigid and violent contraction, and I do not have another memory from that until two months later when I awoke to being tended by one of the other students, a wonderfully kind woman named Beluuma, in a small room in Telredor.
. . . . . I am told that the lightning strike threw me from the lake back to the clearing and that my insensible form landed rigidly at Nobundo’s hooves. I am told that he had to pound on my chest hard enough to crack my sternum to restart my heart. I am told that I was carried – a twitching, spasmodic mess – back to Telredor by two of my peers. I am told that it was approximately two months before I regained my senses. I remember none of it.

. . . . . It is a wonder what such a universal clue-by-four to the face can do for one’s attitude. Although I remember being an arrogant and power-hungry woman, I no longer am able to find that part of my personality. It is as if the lightning burned it from my brain. Near death brings a certain humility to the soul, and it is only due to that humility that I managed to complete my training with Farseer Nobundo.
. . . . . Approach the elements with reverence and humility, with polite deference and gentle requests – lest they find their own ways of ensuring that you are humbled.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Northrend is Calling

Written while listening to: Leipzig is Calling (with short intro) by Thomas Dolby.

. . . . . If a person wanted to be digging up a magical artifact for research on this planet, then they ought to seek out a dwarf. Diyos had been here long enough to learn this. So it was that a week after his brother’s hearing and making that stupid, stupid promise, here Diyos was, making his way to the Dwarven District of Stormwind on a lovely, bright, late fall day. Scratch that. It was a lovely, bright, late fall day – except in the Dwarven District. Here, the thick layer of soot in the air didn’t so much obscure the sun as grab it by the throat and shake it until the lights went out.
. . . . . Diyos coughed and thumped his chest, cursed his sensitive nose, and lifted the directions he’d hastily scribbled from a city guard close enough to his eyes to read in the gloom. “Right past the Cathedral-side entrance, then left at the next block,” he mumbled aloud, stifling another cough with his hand. He tried to pull his hood around to the front to shield his face until he realized that his robes didn’t actually have a hood.
. . . . . A rhythmic clank of armor and hooves caused him to look behind just in time to jump out of the way of a skeletally-thin horse and dark-plated human rider. “Watch it!” Diyos yelled, accustomed to his bellow and wide shoulders giving him some measure of intimidation factor. The rider paused briefly and fixed cold, inhumanly glowing eyes on the anchorite – who quailed under the look and backed to the wall. So much for intimidation factor. To his relief, the rider turned away and went on, dismounting nearly half a block away. The dark-plated knight left his charger outside the building and clanked on up a set of stairs and inside.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Writer's Block Sucks

On 12/5/09, I will run out of scheduled story posts. At that point, this blog will cease to be updated every three days and will instead be updated only as often as I end up writing something. The concern I have with this is that I have not written anything worth posting since 11/10/09. Sure, that's only twenty days without writing, but I suppose I'm a little afraid that I've already lost my muse again.

I know I haven't - the holidays are upon me, finals for the semester, actual work at work, some hefty guild RP stuffs, and so forth. I've got another Hadeon story beginning to percolate in my brain, plans for another Diyos one as well... It'll come back. But in the meanwhile, posting around here will probably slow down considerably.

Much love to all four or five people who read the blog.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Good Deeds Never Go Unpunished

 Written while listening to Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

. . . . . Diyos had been feeling the subtle prickling of the hairs on the back of his neck for a good three minutes now. The weight of the stare he was getting pushed his shoulders into a hunch and his hand tighter around his mug of ale. He finally could take no more. Shoulders straightening, he spun in his seat; his blue robes twisted around his hips. “Yes, it’s in a bun!” he yelled at the human girl at the table behind him. “My masculinity is not threatened by this!” His bellow did not cow the girl so much as the gleam of pointy white teeth in his indigo face. The girl turned bright pink and turned around in her chair to face her companion and pretend she had not been staring.
. . . . . “Bloody gawkers,” he grumbled with some of the slang he’d picked up and turned back to his mug at his own table. “If it’s not the beard it’s the hair.” He lifted a platter-sized hand and stroked his facial tentacles self-consciously, then took another swig from his mug. The prickly feeling was back already.
. . . . . With an impatient snort, the draenei shoved his chair back and stood up, slamming his empty mug down on the wooden table. He dropped a handful of coins next to it, tugged his robe straight, and stalked out of the tavern. Outside the Blue Recluse, dusk had fallen on the city. The guards were already patrolling in incompetent, inefficient squads. Three of them ran by towards the warlocks’ section, their plate armor jouncing and clinking comically. You know, the warlocks’ district wasn’t such a bad idea; they had a tavern too. A single mug of ale really just wasn’t enough for as big a fellow as Diyos. He set his hooves towards the Slaughtered Lamb to get another drink – or five.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

If the Sky Can Crack

Written while listening to Electrical Storm (William Orbit mix) by U2.
((There is little precedent for draenei drinking alcohol, but there is some. I figure the tavern was built and staffed by another sentient race on the planet. My draenei are degenerates it seems.))

. . . . . A bright peal of laughter and the rapid clatter of hooves on the tile floors of the ship’s corridors were all the warning Shield Crusos got before the little girl came barreling around the curve in the corridor and straight into him. Luckily, that was enough warning for him to jump nimbly out of the way, despite the heavy plate armor he wore. “Sorry!” the girl shouted as she gained speed down the straight part of the corridor, waving a piece of paper over her head with one ebon-gray hand. Crusos shook his head and smiled, turning to go on his way and report for the day’s duty guarding the Prophet. A large boy on the far edge of adolescence rounded the corner at a full gallop and crashed into Shield Crusos, sending them both sprawling to the floor with a deafening clang of plate.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Little Cat's Sixth (and Final) Lesson

Written while listening to Lions! by Lights.
((If nothing else, listen to the song at least. It's totally sugar pop adorable and a very good fit for this character as a whole. Anyway, the title up there says "(and Final) Lesson" not because I am done with Xere, but because she is changing and so the titling, frequency, tone, et cetera of her stories will be changing with her. The first scene with the death knight is from in-game RP with Celuur of Moon Guard, and the scene with the Farseer is greatly abridged from in-game RP with Umbraan of Moon Guard, with a paragraph added at the end with creative license. (More than half the credit - I insist - goes to him instead of me.) I also wanted to include another bit where Xere meets Toxis and her death bear and apprentice shaman Daoloth, but I forgot to screencap those AND thought this was getting awfully long. This story finally brings Xeremuriis's timeline concurrent with Valdiis's. Where things go from here, we'll see.))

. . . . . As the Little Cat swept the air shrine’s terrace where Farseer Nobundo and Farseer Umbraan did their meditations, she practiced asking the dirt to kindly move itself along for her. Sometimes it worked. Today, though, the dirt was being stubborn. She was too busy fussing at the dirt on the rugs to notice the large armor-plated draenei man come up the ramp until she heard him mutter, “Damn you, Umbraan.”
. . . . . She turned quickly, her broom stilling at the unexpected voice. “Farseer Umbraan?” she asked the plated man.
. . . . . “Yes.”
. . . . . “He is away right now.”
. . . . . The plated man shifted his weight, but the Little Cat couldn’t even tell so much as the direction of his gaze. However, the dryness to his voice did not escape her. “Well evidently. You do not look like him.”
. . . . . She leaned the end of her broom on the floor. “I should hope not! He’s old.” She wrinkled her nose, and then smiled at her own joke. “I can take a message for him, though.”
. . . . . “I beg your pardon. He is old? I am the same age as Umbraan. Older, perhaps. Are you saying I look old?” The draenei’s voice echoed strangely inside his helmet.
. . . . . The Little Cat looked down at her hooves, her cheeks going purple with embarrassment. “Sorry! I didn’t mean… It’s just that… Well, he says so himself that he’s an old man!”
. . . . . “Hmph. If he wishes to feel like an old man, that is his business. Tell him that Celuur has arrived and is looking for him.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Little Cat's Fifth Lesson

Written while listening to Siúil a Rún by Celtic Woman.
((98% of the text for this fifth installment comes from in-game RP with Umbraan of Moon Guard. In fact, all credit for the creation of Xeremuriis as a character goes to Umbraan's player, since I came up with the idea for her while RPing as Valdiis with Umbraan.))

. . . . . For six months, the Little Cat studied writing, reading, and speaking Common. From time to time, her friend Seung would stop by for several days and stay with her at her room in the Crystal Hall. Seung was intent on finding the strange man who had rescued her after the crash, so she roamed the islands for much of the time. The Little Cat was intent on learning as much as she could before she set out to find a ship. It was her plan to find Zunaadrin and his Argent Dawn.
. . . . . The earth elemental in the glade at the Vale stayed in her memory, along with the Farseer’s advice to find a mentor. Augmenting her study time with more meaningful work, the Little Cat picked up her broom again and resumed the duties of sweeping out the Crystal Hall. She tried to listen to Chakaa’s lessons again, but he shook his head at her and shooed her away with a stubby hand. She asked Seer Skaltesh if he had time for an apprentice and he rebuffed her gently. Sulaa, too, turned her away with a gentle smile.
. . . . . The Little Cat sat on her bed and considered her situation, her wooden hammer lying on the bed in front of her. “I can feel them,” she muttered grumpily. “I know that I can do this… Why won’t anyone give me a chance?” Sparks jumped between her fingers as she concentrated on practicing calling down the bolts of lightning from the sky. A spark now, maybe one day a full bolt… She watched the sparks moodily, thinking of who else to ask, what else to do about her desire to learn more about the shaman’s path.
. . . . . “Farseer Nobundo,” she said quietly. “I’ll ask him. Tomorrow.”

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Little Cat's Fourth Lesson

Written while listening to Veni Redemptor Gentium by Paul Schwartz.
((The first scene comes from in-game RP with Seung of Moon Guard. All credit goes to Seung's player for being a good sport and letting me filch her character into the story.))

. . . . . The evening after Farseer Firmanvaar left, the Little Cat settled herself once more on a bench beneath the draenethyst crystal in the middle of Azure Watch. As the night’s business of cooking dinner, shutting down the settlement for the night, and the joyous social bonding the draenei were known for swirled around her, she set her mind to completing the map up to Azure Watch. Intent on her work, it was not until the brown furry head settled next to her on the bench with a soft whuff sound that the Little Cat noticed the bear.
. . . . . With a gasp of surprise, she scrambled backwards off the bench. A soft, melodic giggle rang out as a small draenei girl with her hair pulled into pigtails approached into the circle of draenethyst light. “It’s alright,” she said softly, “he’s harmless.”

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Little Cat's Third Lesson

Written while listening to Welcome Home by Yusuf Islam (f.k.a. Cat Stevens).

. . . . . One of the seven survivors the Little Cat and Sennar had found would not wake up. His left horn was almost entirely broken off, and the skull behind where it would have been was dented. Yet, the draenei man clung stubbornly to life, so there was still a very good chance that – with enough healers – he could recover.
. . . . . The Vale didn’t have enough healers, however. Anchorite Zalduun had recovered and taken over the infirmary duties, so the de facto leaders of the Vale decided to send the Farseer with the badly injured survivor to the Exodar’s main crash site to seek out more healers. A stretcher was fashioned from a mage’s staff found in the wreckage, the Little Cat’s broom, and a cloak. Anchorite Zalduun put a levitation spell on the stretcher so that the injured survivor’s escort need only carefully guide it.
. . . . . Technician Zhanaa sent word ahead through the holo-emitter so that the next nearest post-crash settlement, Azure Watch, would expect them. The Little Cat, the Farseer, and four other draenei were to accompany the survivor to the healers, if there were any at the Exodar.
. . . . . The night before they were to set out, everyone who was able to do so gathered in the infirmary. Under the anchorite’s direction, nearly thirty draenei sought out the Light within, called upon the Naaru’s blessing, and lent their healing gifts to the injured survivor. The draenei fair glowed from the infusion of healing. As the pale blue marks of their gifts faded from the foreheads of those gathered, the Little Cat caught a glimpse of the Farseer through a break in the infirmary’s makeshift walls. His back was to them, and the set of his sloped shoulders as he looked up at the sky nearly broke the Little Cat’s heart.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hungry Ghosts

Written while listening to Wandering Star by Portishead.

. . . . . With a clank of armor and a whuff of compressed feathers, Valdiis sank down onto the end of the bed in her rented room in the Legerdemain Lounge in Dalaran. She looked left and right out of habit, even though she had paid a premium to have the room spelled against prying eyes. Confident that she was alone, she pulled off her gloves, setting the gold tinted armor next to her on the bed. Gold armor was horribly impractical, mostly just a bit of ceremonial flash, but she had gotten it made for herself anyway, wanting something pretty and impractical for herself. It had always been one of her few concessions to feminine vanity – she liked her clothes. But having several sets of armor stashed in safe-houses around the world served a practical purpose too. Still, the gold was mostly flash, a way to dazzle her people into overlooking the subtle signs of Brokenness.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Little Cat's Second Lesson

Written while listening to Hero of Love by Live.

. . . . . “Over here, Sennar,” the Little Cat called, her soft voice betraying several days’ worth of exhaustion. As her companion pushed through the underbrush, the Little Cat dropped to her knees beside the crumpled draenei woman on the ground. The woman’s arms were a raw, glistening dark purple; patches around the edges of the wounds were dry and blackened. Her clothes were ashes around her. Stuffing all the worry over the woman’s condition deep into the back of her mind, the Little Cat called forth a memory of O’ros and its gentle chiming to the forefront of her mind. She concentrated hard on hope and held her hands over the burned survivor, praying. The Naaru’s gift of healing Light channeled through the Little Cat’s hands.
. . . . . Sennar arrived at her side and watched for a moment. He was always a little awed by how brightly Xeremuriis sparkled when she called upon the Light. Surely, she would be a revered exarch like her grandmother in time. He knelt and lent his own gift to the survivor. Their combined efforts were enough.
. . . . . The injured draenei woman awoke with a sob of pain. The small gifts of the two young draenei could only stabilize her – true healing would take the Farseer’s help back at the Vale. One of the other rescue teams had found an anchorite, but he was still in recovery and unable to aid in the infirmary yet. The Little Cat gently touched the woman’s cheek to focus her. “Lady, you have survived. Thank the Naaru. We are deeply sorry, but we must move you to the infirmary. It will hurt.” The woman’s lips compressed into a thin line and she nodded once, very slowly.
. . . . . The Little Cat slid one hand behind the survivor’s back to steady her as Sennar tucked an arm beneath the woman’s legs. Sennar’s hand replaced hers on the woman’s back as he picked her up and held her as gently as he could. “Quick, Sennar. Get her back to the infirmary. I will keep looking.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Observations on the Draenei Race

A quick note about these stories: these are all character-development and story-telling moments, but have no special grand, over-arching meaning behind them. They are just to tell about what's in my head, and hopefully entertain some of my friends who role-play with me (which is why I'm not especially interested in throwing myself into the blogosphere full tilt yet).

I recall having read somewhere recently - I don't remember if it was a blog post or a realm forum post - that not enough people RP draenei as an appropriately alien race. While I agree in part, I also agree that it is difficult for a novice RPer like me to get into a non-human mindset, and I would like to point out that the draenei as they are presented in the game have the same drives for revenge and recovery and love and prejudice that other Azerothian native races do. I deeply admire and secretly envy those who can play the draenei as appropriately foreign and near-immortal as they really deserve to be. If I fail at it in my own writing, that is my fault and not a reflection of the race as a whole.

As I have mentioned before, the resilience and recovery abilities of the draenei are part of why I like them. They have been through so much, and so many thousands of years of weirdness and horror and trauma...and yet they seem to come out of it primarily sane, hopeful, mostly happy, and more stable than expected for what they've seen. This resilence of character shows in my own stories through the reactions of the characters to horror and death and fright. While time should probably be spent on a character's terror at seeing a ghoul for the very first time and then being chased by it, it ends up only minutes later that her fear is overtaken by concern for her family and she bounces back. While a character has endured untold suffering and horror at the hands of the Lich King, once she regains control of her self, much of her original personality and concern for life remains intact. Part of this is just the author stepping in to move the story along, and another part of it is an authorial failing at effective dark, angsty stories - and part of it is simply that I want the reactions of these characters to show that amazing propensity for standing tall against all comers, be they ghouls or demons or spoilt-brat frozen princes. But here is fair warning that this flaw of writing may also be very apparent in my stories.

Lastly, I want to briefly touch on what a pain in the ass it is to place events along a timeline which can span tens of thousands of years for a people that, for all we really know, may never actually die and may take thousands of millenia to even appear aged. I can't even figure out exactly how old my characters are because of this fuzziness. I may misplace or mistime events as I go along, and end up having to come back along and retcon the story later to fit actual canon instead of my own conjecture. (I've already done this once with Val's first story.) As of right now - 10/29/09 - I am working out my concepts of draenic time like so: the Prophet Velen appears, now, the equivalent of a fit 78 year-old human. We know he was already a leader among his people when Sargeras approached them; let's say he was a young and robust leader, a visual appearance similar to a 32 year-old human (hey, Alexander the Great had conquered the known world by this point). So over the 25,000 years of fleeing before the Burning Legion, Velen has aged the visual equivalent of about 46 human years of life. 25,000 divided by 46 equals ~543. By this totally made-up and conjectural reasoning, Valdiis is about 16,833 years old (~31). Xeremuriis is about 8,688 years old (~16). Hadeon would be somewhere in the 36,946 range (~67). Diyos and Athos are about 20,091 years old (~37). None of this is actually important to the story - but I wanted to have my reasoning written down someplace.

Edited 11/18/09: Alternately, regarding draenei aging... It has been argued to me - rather successfully for the most part - that the draenei age at a similar rate to other races in the game up until some "peak age" probably in the mid-20s or early-30s, where the process halts. It doesn't make a great deal of sense to have a hundred-year-old toddler. It is likely that the draenei do endure a slightly longer than short-lived races period of adolescence, although not more than perhaps a hundred years or so. I find this argument persuasive enough to sway me to reconsider - again - my draenic timeline. How this will change things, I'm not entirely sure. The only one whose apparent age truly matters is Xeremuriis, since she is meant to still be a young adult.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Little Cat's First Lesson

Written while listening to I Shall Be Free by Kid Beyond.
((I never did end up with a good title for this series...))

. . . . . Farahlon was burning. Blue and red splashed the ruined walls of the city. On the side of a building, a large blue handprint, and then a long smear, as if the hand’s owner had used the wall to prop himself up long enough to keep going. The stench of sizzling meat drifted through the air with the smoke clouds, passing by the noses of the few left whom it really could not bother as much.
. . . . . A small phalanx of draenei men and women – only four of each – stood tall at the edge of the ruins. The woman at the point of the formation, nearest the carnage and battle, watched the green-eyed demons advance through the wreckage towards her position. Tiny flames danced harmless across the tops of her horns; sweat dripped down her face from her temples. Her robes were beyond saving - torn, scorched, stained with the blue blood of her people and the red blood of the advancing demons. The women behind her all looked similarly battle worn.
. . . . . The rubble of the city of Farahlon was slowing the advance of the demons – “Sindorei!” they yelled at times, and so “sindorei” she thought to name them – and giving them a few precious minutes to gather strength. She looked to the men beside her. The one standing closest to her wavered on his hooves, his staff slack in his massive pale blue hands.
. . . . . “Just a little more, Geroom,” she said, her voice a soft, lyrical tone. “Just keep it together a little more.” She spared a glance behind them at the massive ship several hundred yards away. The stream of fleeing draenei was slowing to a trickle. “They’re almost there, Geroom. Keep it together. Your wife needs you.”
. . . . . The man – Geroom – nodded wearily and planted his staff on the ground, using it to prop himself up. “I don’t have much left, Habii. And the demons are nearly upon us…”

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Good Night, Demon Slayer

Written while listening to Good Night, Demon Slayer by Voltaire.

. . . . . At first, the worst part of the swamp was the smell. Not even natives of Zangarmarsh were immune to the fetid, heavy scent of muck and rot. The swamp possessed a decided lack of giant mushrooms as well, which made those same natives of Zangarmarsh very uncomfortable even before the smell. Thick blue fingers pried a clinging piece of rotten leaf from the edge of a trailing sword sheath. “By Velen’s beard, this place is wretched,” rumbled the sword’s owner in the company’s shared language.
. . . . . “We will not have to be here long,” replied one of the two females in the company, her voice deep and rich. “We will find the green-skinned traitors, slay them, and return home through the portal.” Her tone was matter-of-fact, brooking no argument.
. . . . . The company’s commander, Magtoor, chuckled quietly at her assessment of the situation. “Valdiis, your confidence in us is admirable.” He left out the ‘but…’ which probably would have followed the statement. His company may have been nearly all warriors, but few of them were truly stupid. They knew how bad things were. If Valdiis wanted to lift spirits by acting as if they would ever return home, he figured it was best to let her.
 . . . . . The company trudged on through the stinking marsh, their hooves affording very little purchase in the muck. The female who had been working to keep up the company’s morale glanced to the large blue warrior at her side again. An ebon-gray tendril beneath her ear quivered – the only betrayal of her genuine mental distress. Her voice lowered, loud enough only for her companion to hear over the squelches and sucking noises of thirty-five soldiers lifting their hooves out of the brackish water and decaying plant life. “Rulaam,” she addressed him, “we are going to go back to that portal. I swear it.”
. . . . . The warrior lifted a hand and wiped sweat from his ridged brow. “Do not make promises you are not certain you can keep, little sister,” he warned her. Unwilling to face her retort, he sped up a bit, leaving her to scowl at his broad back.

. . . . . “Firefly Company, HALT!” came the order from Commander Magtoor. Thirty-four soldiers snapped to attention at the edge of a small patch of solid land at the base of a foothill they had been aiming for. “We will set up camp here. The ground is solid and the steep hill will help guard our backs. Fall out and get to work.”
. . . . . “Yes, sir!”

. . . . . Twenty-eight warriors sat around the campfire, watching their shaman – a pretty middle-aged draenei called Beluuma – turn the spit full of swamp frogs over the fire. She hummed a children’s lullaby as she cooked.
. . . . . “She’s humming again,” Rulaam gritted through his pointed teeth, his head bent low towards Valdiis. “I cannot stand the humming, little sister.”
. . . . . “Why not?” Valdiis ran a sharpening stone down the edge of her blade, for all appearances calm except for the quivering tendrils on either side of her face.
. . . . . “The sound, be damned it! The sound!” Rulaam stared back at the fire, the glow in his eyes dim and unfocused. After several minutes, he spoke again, but the words were strained and disjointed, as if he were trying to catch them like fish swimming by in a river. “It sounds like…as if…back home, she did…the singing too.” He scowled, frustrated by his inability to convey his meaning.
. . . . . A slender, calloused ebon-gray hand rested on his hunched shoulder. “Pause, brother. Give yourself a minute to bring it forward. Do not struggle so hard against it.” Her words sounded comforting, but they were rote – something she said often these days. While Rulaam was looking at the fire, his companion was looking at him. His shoulders had begun to slump, the scaleplates along the top of his forehead were fusing. The luxurious, thick tail of auburn hair he wore in a braid down his back was looking ragged and shedding clumps. His forearms looked swollen. A furrow of worry formed between her eyes as she squinted at him and waited.
. . . . . Several minutes passed before he collected enough of his thoughts to put them together. “Beluuma hums a lullaby. It sounds like the one Habii sings to our daughter to convince her to go to bed: ‘Good night, demon slayer, good night… Now it’s time to close your tired eyes.’”
. . . . . “She made it to the ship, brother,” she reassured him. “They all made it to the ship. Do not worry so.”
. . . . . The warrior grunted at her and stared into the fire.

. . . . . Commander Magtoor looked at the remains of his company. Twenty-one men and one woman stood before him, at attention as best as each of them could. One of the warriors, an older draenei male with much fighting experience, kept jumping and looking behind him. His deeply sloped shoulders and warped hooves marked him as likely the next to run off. Magtoor sighed but did not allow his men to see the sorrow and regret in his expression.
. . . . . “I will be blunt. You deserve it from me,” he said, his voice shuddering on the words. “We have lost thirteen men to this fel taint. We have not yet found a cure. This world is strange and foreign, food is scarce, and the orcs are nowhere to be found.” Were his men at top form, there would be some grumbling and disorder at this bald pronouncement, but there were only weary nods in response. Unbidden, a wash of homesickness overtook the commander; he blinked back tears. “Firefly Company no longer suits us. We do not glow brightly against the night. We are fading into the night…” He watched Rulaam count on the fingers of his left hand twice for no apparent reason. His sister placed a hand on his shoulder and patted him like a mother pats an errant child.
. . . . . “Men, from henceforth, our company will be known as the Broken Exiles. It is time to accept that we will not find our revenge or our way home. Let us resolve to settle here for now. Once we are feeling better and healed from the backlash of the fel energies, we will seek out better land.”
. . . . . Commander Magtoor and his company of Broken Exiles did not openly acknowledge what they all knew – there would never be a recovery, never be a better land. They were stuck here.

. . . . . “Valdiis, come here.” The voice was querulous now, but it still held the air of command Magtoor had been born with. The ebon-gray draenei set down the legplates she had been cleaning – her own by the smaller size of them – and walked over to the commander. Of all of them affected by the fel taint, she was one of only three who had not yet begun to devolve. Her hooves were strong, the scaleplates of her forehead defined, and her shoulders straight. Magtoor placed a hand on her arm, looking forlornly at his own cracked and stubby claws.
. . . . . “It pains me to have to ask this of you, but you are still strong,” he said, looking up into her bright eyes. “The attack on the camp last was not orcs.” He lifted a smooth chunk of tan stone; a pale blue glow, like water over a stream bed, coated the stone.
. . . . . “No!” Valdiis gasped, putting together in a matter of seconds what had taken Magtoor six hours to piece together out of the twisted abyss which had once been knowledge in his head. “It could not have been,” she protested, the tendrils behind her ears quivering.
. . . . . “There is no other answer, Valdiis. Beluuma has been lost to us for weeks. The madness has fully claimed her now.” Magtoor looked so old, so weary. “Valdiis, you are still strong. I need you to find Beluuma and free her from this hell. End her misery, soldier. That’s an order.”
. . . . . A blankness spread over Valdiis’s face, her expression settling into something resolved and terrible and unreadable. “Yes, sir.”

. . . . . There were eighteen soldiers left in the Harborage. Three of them did the majority of the work of keeping the encampment alive – splitting wood, catching frogs and fish, repairing the damage done to the tents after assaults by the Lost Ones. Chasing after the Lost Ones and dispensing a soldier’s mercy…
. . . . . A deep-voiced scream echoed over the camp just before dawn. It was followed by a terrible crash – like a tent being ripped asunder and its wooden poles falling to a heap. As the remaining soldiers dragged themselves from sleep – no longer capable of the alertness to snap to attention like they should have – more noise followed…hooves splashing through the mire and a large body blundering away in the darkness.
. . . . . Valdiis, dressed hastily in the moldering linen vest and pants that were standard attire for the swamp camp, emerged from her tent to survey the damage. The demolished tent was next to her own. “Rulaam…” she whispered, her hand going to her mouth in horror.
. . . . . The sounds of a large warrior blindly charging into the swamp faded as the other soldiers returned to their tents. Valdiis sat on the ground in front of the ruins of the tent, hugging her knees and rocking from side to side.

. . . . . What a cruelty it was to set the morale officer the task of putting down her brothers in arms. But it was so much worse to set her to chasing down her brother of blood. It was not Commander Magtoor who sent her on the hunt for Rulaam when he began attacking the encampment; she volunteered for the duty. It was hard to tell if it was from love, duty, or madness that she asked to do it. Nevertheless, it was Valdiis who set off to find this Lost One and offer him the mercy of a swift and honorable death.

. . . . . “Sodding bastard,” Valdiis muttered. “Go away!”
. . . . . I will not! Making you is who I am, and dancing about the flame we be. A sing-song, androgynous voice gibbered in her head. Without us the low-light night water dance through ended sword!
. . . . . The tendrils behind her ears quivered and lifted from her shoulders, swaying like hypnotized snakes. Valdiis burst into song with her rusty, battered warrior’s voice, attempting to drown out the voice in her head with the lullaby she sang. The song drifted among the dripping moss and creepers, carried through the twisted trees on the wind.
. . . . . Something heard the lullaby.

. . . . . The warrior and the Lost One circled each other. She watched him warily, trying to find some hint of her brother still beneath the stunted, warped creature that grunted at her. There was nothing. It somehow made it easier.
. . . . . The art of the warrior, the beautiful sword dance Rulaam had taught her, was not visible in this thing that leapt gracelessly at her. It wasn’t until the twisted thing’s leap impaled it on the long blade held at ready in her hand that she realized it was humming a lullaby. And smiling at her.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Story of Valdiis, a Knight of the Ebon Blade

Written while listening to Winterborn (This Sacrifice) - Subway to Sally Remix by the Crüxshadows.
((The name is pronounced "Vel-deesh." This is the first piece of creative writing I've done in a little over a decade - i.e. first story flaws may apply.))

. . . . . . Once, I knew honor. I knew compassion and mercy. I knew what it was to believe so deeply in a cause that you devoted your entire life to it…

. . . . . I was born aboard an inter-dimensional ship fleeing Argus – they call it Oshu’gun now in the Orcish tongue. I was still a child among my people when my hooves first touched land on one of the many planets we tried to find refuge on. We found no refuge for much longer. When we finally landed for the last time – on Draenor, my parents and my brothers left the dying ship behind and we settled in Telredor. My brothers were all older than me – bigger, stronger. A certain fierceness made their blood and their tempers hot. As the only girl amidst four boys, I grew fierce like them. I followed them in all they did.
. . . . . Rulaam – the youngest of the four and nearest to me in age – eschewed the anchorite path of my parents and other brothers and became a simple warrior. Perhaps he wasn’t strong enough in the Light to be an anchorite, or perhaps their priestly ways were just not for him. I followed my adored Rulaam into combat.
. . . . . I learned to wield a blade with deadly grace. I learned to crack heads with a stick. I taught myself how to turn anything I could lay hands to into a weapon. I honed my very body into a weapon whose hand was guided by the Light. I charged heedless into any fray with my enemy, reveling in the joy of deadly motion. I trained for the day I would join the great Army of the Light and defeat the Burning Legion that had given my childhood nothing but endless retreat.
. . . . . The Legion found us all too swiftly. As a warrior with my brother Rulaam, we joined a company of our people in battle. I remember bathing in the blood of the rabid orcs, but I remember more often than not sitting around a fire with my company, tending our wounds and saying prayers for the dying, washing off our own blood from our armor.
. . . . . Many of our people fled to Telredor. My parents and other brothers were constantly busy; they did little else but tend the injured and offer prayers. Eventually, the orcs chased all of us into Zangarmarsh. Still, we fled before the Legion.

. . . . . I remember a fierce battle, a painful, blood-caked one. The orcs had so many Legion demons with them by that point. My company held the line while those left at Telredor fled towards Orebor Harborage to prepare for further retreat to the new inter-dimensional ship the great Prophet Velen and the Naaru had secured for us - the Tempest Keep. Retreat again. Always retreat… The fel energies used against us – they were so strong, so pervasive. Somehow, many of our company were infected by it – corrupted…broken.
. . . . . As we saw what the fel infection was doing to us, we knew we could not follow our people fleeing to the Tempest Keep. What if we brought this filth with us? So we did not follow our people. As Draenor shattered under our hooves, Commander Magtoor led the company in pursuit of the orcs, in pursuit of a new life where we would not bring these fel taints to our people.
. . . . . We went through the Dark Portal.

. . . . . The land on the other side was as bleak as our own – blasted, sere, and scarred. Those of my company still strong enough – myself among them – supported our brothers in arms as we sought some safety, some refuge to rest and seek a cure for this fel infection. Commander Magtoor led us to a swamp where we built a small harborage and began tending our wounded.
. . . . . It was not long before the fel taint grew worse. Several of my fellow warriors…changed. Their bodies became stunted and twisted, their minds starting to slip, their very souls broken upon the spear of fel magic. Among them, Rulaam. Those not driven mad by the fel energies were driven nearly so by simple homesickness. We had no idea where we were, and little more idea than that on how we would survive in this fetid hell. We called ourselves the Broken Exiles.
. . . . . Rulaam was not the first or the last to go. The madness was gradual even if it was pronounced and obvious. My brother forgot who I was. All my brothers – be they of blood or blade – forgot who I was. Even Commander Magtoor was not immune to the decay the fel infection caused. At the time, I counted myself lucky to be physically unaffected.
. . . . . Rulaam snapped. Commander Magtoor had the distasteful task of ordering those of us still sane to go forth and protect the Harborage from our lost brethren. I went in pursuit of my brother. I owed it to Rulaam that he should be sent mercifully to his grave by his sister’s hand. Perhaps it was my own slide into madness guiding me. To this day, I do not know. I do know that it was listening to the voices – the ethereal whispers of fel spirits guided by orc warlocks – that led me into the trap.

. . . . . I was captured by a group of orcs from nearby Stonard in the swamp. At the Harborage, we treated fairly with them because we had no other choice, but those foul greenskins know no honor. I was kept as a pet, a slave, a dog to follow behind their meager camp as they marauded ever northward. I understand a little of the Orcish tongue. They headed north to free their companions in internment camps in some place called Lordaeron.
. . . . . I will not recount my time in the orcs’ camp, a plaything to brutish, ugly warriors; it is too horrific to tell, although not the most horrific thing I’ve endured.
. . . . . We made it to Lordaeron only to find that the interred orcs had been freed and sailed westward to new lands. The land of Lordaeron was a desolate place, filled with the stench of death and decay. It was there that my captors became my kin. Death makes brothers of us all.
. . . . . An army of rotting, putrid…things descended upon the small force of orc warriors. Unarmed, chained to a tent post, I simply died, felled with a single slash to the neck from an icy blade.

. . . . . Never is it said that the Lich King wastes a good weapon.
. . . . . My corpse was among the heaps of bodies carried to the citadel of Naxxramas. I was not a hero like hundreds of corpses there, but my unique appearance - so like the eredar demons this world had already known - made me a useful show dog for the Scourge. My shell was reanimated, filled with ice and magic and fury. My soul was locked away, watching through my glowing blue eyes as I did as I was told.
. . . . . As in the battles on Draenor, I bathed in blood. But now it was not the blood of my enemies. I slew mothers and children alike, anything living that stood between me and my ordered goal. My soul screamed in horror and revulsion as I cut down innocents without hesitation, but my will was not my own. I was the Lich King’s creature – cold, unholy, and drenched in blood.
. . . . . I was placed in a regiment of other blasphemous machines of the Lich King, a freezing legion – the 1113th Infantry Division. The things I did…they were not actions of my own choosing. My soul watched the Light slip from my grasp a little more every day I followed the wretched General Marsille the Mad. By that point, I was quite mad myself. As a warrior on Draenor, I reveled in battle, but not in killing. I kept no trophies from the slain, no mementos from my enemies. As a soldier of the 1113th, I collected finger bones.

. . . . . It was New Avalon that did it. We were sent there to slaughter the Scarlet Crusade resistance, and slaughter we did. Our legions overpowered the twisted fanatics like a stampede of elekks through a nursery. At their chapel, Knight Commander Plaguefist found some Argent Dawn prisoners.
. . . . . I knew nothing of what became of my people as I defended their flight to Tempest Keep. I had no idea they had landed on the same planet as I. I had no idea that my people had found their Army of the Light in the great Alliance. I knew not the Argent Dawn, only that they were enemies of the Lich King and thus enemies of mine.
. . . . . One of my brothers had survived. He had fled with our people on the Exodar. He had joined the Alliance and fought with the Argent Dawn against the evil of the Scourge. Against the evil of…me.
. . . . . I had no choice. I had no control. The Lich King ordered and I obeyed. I slew my own brother there in New Avalon, and my soul shattered like a crystal chalice, the last remnants of anything remotely like me leaking out of the sharp pieces that I left behind in the spatters of his blood.

. . . . . I am broken. I am much less than sane. I am fit for nothing but the bloody slaughter I was designed to inflict. I know only revenge and retribution. I know only a hatred so deep, so pervasive, that you devote your entire reason for taking another step forward to eradicating the source of that hate.

. . . . . . I am Valdiis, a soldier of the 1113th Infantry Division.

MRP Profiles

Just to keep them in a safe place where I won't lose them - and, you know, in case anyone is curious - here are the MRP profiles for my WoW characters. Listed, more or less, in order of creation and with all associated personas within each character's section, starting with the default MRP flag for each. Last updated: 4/04/14.

Notes on How the Stories Will Go

I don't currently plan on having a great deal of out-of-character, non-story chatter in this blog. It's meant for sharing stories. I have a LiveJournal for OOC whining. I will - from time to time - have a comment about why something was written a particular way, but I'll try not to do that too often.

In order to help sort the stories, each will be preceeded by a small icon of the character and tagged with the character's name. I will be posting the stories in the order they were written, so the evolution of my writing style can be more clearly observed (and giggled at). Depending upon whim, the stories may be accompanied by a picture or two of the areas in which they occur - inspired by Destron's Travels through Azeroth and Outland (but with a great deal less awesome than he possesses).

Every story will also be preceeded with a link to a song that I was listening to while writing or editing the story. Music is a vital part of the process for me and story titles, images, phrases, and moods can be heavily influenced or outright stolen from a piece of music. Even the title of this blog is taken from two songs I love. (Yes, the Windbringer refers to one character and the Winterborn is another; no, I'm not telling who.) It is intended that the music I link be listened to while reading the story - if possible. I try not to repeat bands in order to ensure that the mood of each story stands alone, although there are certain ones I listen to frequently when writing.

Updates will occur...well, when I have a story to put up. Right now, I have a backlog of thirteen pieces to publish on the blog, and by the time I post them all, I hope to have a few new pieces. I tend to write on Tuesdays and Fridays, as those are days I have free time between classes, but lately I've been writing even at work because I have a lot of free time there now too (and at least typing sounds like working).

Expect first story this evening when I get off work, because there are some links I can't access behind all the firewalls here.

Obligatory Introduction

Hooray! Another small, egocentric World of Warcraft role-playing fiction blog. I feel special.

I hate writing about myself, so I'll make this brief. I am twenty-six years old, female, and an unrepentant geek. I am in college (late!) for a bachelor's in Criminal Justice or Sociology - I haven't entirely made up my mind on my major yet. I also work part time in a typical boring office which allows me a lot of time to sit at a computer and write. My hobbies are hiking, amateur silversmithing, reading fantasy and trashy romance novels, cross-stitch, and playing WoW.

I avoided playing WoW when it first came out, not really being on the pay-to-play bandwagon. Just two weeks before the Burning Crusade expansion came out, I finally got a trial account and tried the game. My first character was a human female warrior on Medivh-US; warriors in most MMOs tend to be the simplest class to learn. At level 12, I got a quest to visit Greatfather Winter in Ironforge. I popped open my map to find out where to go and then my then-fiance and I (he was also playing a warrior) tried to run from Stormwind to Ironforge - through the Burning Steppes... We made it all the way to Blackrock Mountain with a great deal of corpse-running, where several startled level sixty players told us about the Tram.

We didn't like having to sit in the queue all the time to get onto Medivh-US, so we started new characters on whatever server WoW recommended to us - Ysera-US. I made a night elf female priest and my then-fiance made a night elf female druid. We made it to about level 20 in those first two weeks. The game was alright, I was thinking about buying it...and then I saw a Youtube video of the upcoming races in the expansion.

The draenei. Oh my... Horns, hooves, a tail, and a sexy Russian accent? Sign me up!

Thus, the draenei are why I play WoW at all. The majority of my characters are draenei, and so far, all of my stories have been about them. I adore the visual design and the lore of the race, even if they were retconned into the game and drive the spacegoat-haters insane. Their story is that of ultimate survival, of picking back up the shattered pieces - over and over - and emerging with resilience and nobility despite any horror visited upon them.

I was a "casual raider" on Ysera-US for the entirety of TBC and Wrath up to the release of the Trial of the Grand Champion raid - by "casual" on Ysera, I mean 3-4 days a week, 4 hours a day, plus a minimum of 10 daily quests to make enough money to pay for repairs and enchants. By the time ToC25 was released, I was entirely fed up with the raiding scene and the guild drama and the typical idiocy which I encountered on Ysera. I had been toying with the idea of attempting to RP in WoW - I used to do freeform online RP throughout my teenage years - but I have believed for a little more than a decade that my muse had died, abandoned me for the great novel in the sky. But Ysera just annoyed me so I started looking. I'd heard a few rumors about Moon Guard-US being a very big RP server (and also something of a horror), so I created a level one human female warlock and ran over to Goldshire.

Once the terrifying images had been seared into my brain for all eternity and the pain had faded to a dull, persistent ache, I rolled a human male priest instead and went to Stormwind. After a few pitiful attempts at RP, I decided this was actually sort of fun, and at least a nice break from raiding drama. I found the Moon Guard wiki page while looking for information about guilds on the server. And then the magic hit me. I found the entry for the Knights of Menethil guild - all death knights. Now there's a guild I won't have to worry about raiding drama in...and hey, this actually looks really interesting... I can roll a death knight here and see if I can come up with a story...

It turns out that my muse was indeed dead. And rotting. And slaughtering Scarlet Crusaders at the Lich King's command.


For the curious, the characters I play are as follows (updated 7/29/13):
Rosoe - Division Eighty-Four - level 90 draenei female shaman: enhancement spec - Moon Guard
Hadeon - Shadows of Argus level 87 draenei male death knight: frost spec - Moon Guard
Valdiis - Knights of Menethil - level 85 draenei female death knight: blood/frost spec - Moon Guard
Diyos - Elysium -  level 85 draenei male priest: shadow/discipline spec - Moon Guard
Ilva - Division Eighty-Four - level 85 worgen female rogue: subtlety/combat spec - Moon Guard
(inactive) Kresmira - Brotherhood of the Dawn - level 85 draenei female paladin: holy/retribution spec - Moon Guard
Serathyn - level 79 blood elf female warlock: destruction spec - Moon Guard
Ryule - level 70 worgen male druid: guardian/feral spec - Moon Guard
Cassidy - level 56 worgen female warrior: arms spec - Moon Guard
Xeremuriis - Farseer - level 52 draenei female shaman: enhancement spec - Moon Guard
Zubeida - level 24 human female monk: windwalker spec - Moon Guard
(inactive) Parnel - level 10 human female hunter - Moon Guard

There are some characters in the above list who I take some care with revealing who their player is because I do like to have "retreat" characters, but I never directly lie about who I am and will own up to them being played by me if directly pressed - and that is why I also own up to them here in my personal blog which I realize is not hidden from the rest of the world.